Last weekend I broke out my beach towel for the first time this year … it felt oh so incredible! I LOVE the smell of summer! Growing up in Southern California, I truly relish the summer sun, knowing that our two months off fly by. Every year, as I am taking down bulletin boards and filing my piles of papers away, I always have one thought: "this is the summer I will organize myself ahead of time, and plan like there's no tomorrow!" Anybody else have those thoughts (thumbs up)? I feel like organizing for the next year is two-fold.

There are many pressing issues we face in schools today — one of the biggest is student engagement. We have to change with our ever-changing society. Students in the 21st century are communicating with cell phones, iPods, G-chat, social networks, video games, Skype, webcams, flip cameras, and self-published web pages; e-mail is just a small component of our students' communication toolkit.

You might think that with all the talk about customizing digital tools for young children with individual needs, we'd hear even more about specific technologies that can help. I was mulling this thought over the other day when I discovered an unread Marshall Memo on my coffee table from a couple of weeks ago. I love the Marshall Memo, especially since Kim Marshall takes the time to read 44 journals every week and report back on the big take-aways. Sometimes I put it aside to read the New Yorker or click around on the Huffington Post, but it's a mistake.

What if your students could share a popular work of children's literature with other students around the world? Fourth-grade teacher Jan Wells has blown the lid off her small school in Meriden Kansas (population 813) by taking advantage of (free) projects offered by the educational community on Edmodo that allow her to do just that.

We recently wrapped up our 5-webinar series on Parent Engagement. We developed the series to support charter members of the Grade-Level Reading Communities Network, a key community-based effort of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. We've archived the entire Parent Engagement Webinar Series so now it's a free, permanent resource for all.

I confess. I've had a Twitter account for over a year, but I'm just really getting started. I've been following several cool, innovative educators for several months. But I've also been following media gurus, such as Arianna Huffington, Tina Brown, and Anderson Cooper. Oh yes. And Steve Martin. President Obama. And Close Reads Café. So, you could say I'm a little all over the place and you'd be right.

I came across a great website, Mapping Media to the Curriculum, that could help teachers and students demonstrate what they have learned using digital media. By asking the simple question, "What do you want to CREATE today?" teachers can choose from a graphic menu of options, including Interactive Writing, Puppet Video, Simulation, Geo-Map, and others.

All of you teachers out there? Have you ever set up a wiki for your classroom? If so, how did it work out?I've been thinking about the potential of wikis ever since I interviewed a second-grade teacher for the book I'm co-authoring.1 The teacher, Golriz Golkar, who teaches at the Lycée Français in San Francisco (a French immersion school), is big fan of wikis. "I was so excited about creating a wiki for my classroom. I was able to set it up in one weekend after I attended a workshop," Golriz said. "Parents love it too. They ask to join the network.

Are you a parent who has a preschooler at home who longs to be in kindergarten? Are you a teacher who is preparing for Open House? Are you an early childhood teacher who is searching for relatively low-cost educational materials to recommend to parents?Do you have access to a tablet or two, a play station, a computer, and young children who are eager to get their hands on them and learn?Well then. Do I have some resources for you!

Which are the real, worthwhile apps, and which are the mock, to borrow from Cole Porter? With so many titles, how is a busy parent or teacher to know?

Although many apps for cell phones and tablets are advertised as having educational value, is that just marketing hype? Or is it true? Are they educational?


"A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." — Chinese Proverb